Stories about dogs who wander away from campsites and get lost in the woods are terribly sad. Those stories would be even sadder if it was a deaf dog who only had three legs, and was 15 years old, and entered a wilderness that was filled — literally overflowing — with bears.
Meet Mazzy Star, the deaf, three-legged, 15-year-old Husky who wandered away from the campsite in Alaska’s Russian River area and into a wilderness that was filled, literally overflowing, with bears.
First, let’s speak to how many bears are in the area. According to the Alaska Dispatch, “Black bears were trashing tents in the campground. Grizzly sows and their cubs were wandering the banks.” That’s a lot of bears, by any measure, but especially by the measure of me sitting in at this desk.
Mazzy Star had come to the area with the Clydes — a family of self-described “river-traveler tent people,” according to the Dispatch — and two other dogs. All three dogs had kennels to sleep in, under an trailer overhang to protect against rain. But in the morning, Mazzy was gone, the kennel door somehow unlatched. Mazzy had gone off into the wilderness, which contains “dozens of bear pathways laced throughout the area,” according to the Clyde couple.
Rescue efforts were quickly launched.
“Campground employees helped search the thick, brush-filled woods,” reports the Dispatch. “Four of them even scrambled down a steep 100-foot ravine from the campground to the river below, climbing through cottonwood and spruce trees and withstanding scrapes delivered by thorny plants.”
“If we found anything, we were expecting to find a body,” said Dianne Owen, the campground’s general manager.
The Clydes remained at the campground, searching, and the days passed. After a week, they knew they had to go; along with their two young boys, the couple also had an 18-month-old. Jobs and school had to be attended to. Life had to go on.
So, with heavy hearts, they left.
“Leaving a dog who you think had a horrible ending, who was expecting you to save her somehow, was just terrible,” Karen told the Dispatch. “I just had to say bye to her and realize that I wasn’t going to see her. Chances are she’d been eaten. I had this horrible feeling in my stomach the whole way.”
Steady yourself. This story has a happy ending.
One day after the family arrived home, Karen received a call. Mazzy was safe. Eight days after she had run off, she was found trotting down the road near the campground. One of the campground employees drove by in disbelief.
“When I got out of the truck she hopped right over and looked at me with ‘Wow, I am safe now’ eyes,” he told the Dispatch. “You could tell she had been giving it her all. It seemed like she hadn’t stopped to rest the whole time she had been gone.”
Mazzy was a little worse for wear — she was tired and dirty, and had lost weight and some fur on her tail — but very alive. Karen’s husband drove 15 hours straight to go pick her up.
When he arrived, Mazzy’s “ears perked, tail wagged, and she walked over to his side.”